August 16, 2011

10 Qs For Gilad Tiefenbrun Of Linn Products Ltd.

I really, really enjoyed my time with Gilad, every time I meet him, there's always something new to learn from this energetic and visionary man. Linn's future is very secured with Gilad as it's Captain. There's lots of energy and ideas bouncing about, some of it, of which I am not allowed to disclose will be a reality in the near future. For Linn, it's exciting times ahead, just like it's latest Songcast multi room/zone concept, let's hear it from the man himself:

Big E: Welcome back, and thanks for the very impressive demo of the Songcast multi zone streaming system. Tell us a little more about it?

GT: Songcast allows multiple Linn DS to work as a 24 bit multi room audio system. For more info see:
Songcast can be accessed via Kinsky, Linn's DS contro app, which one can download for free on the iphone or ipad and other compatible smart phones, allows the popular hand held device to function as a master remote control for a multi zone home audio system, and the best part is, unlike other systems the Kinsky app will select source music from the various Linn DS based audio system and control volume at each individual zone too! Also see:

Big E: What equipment do we need to have to use the Songcast app?

GT: The Songcast app works with all Linn DS equipment, including Majik-DSi and Sekrit-DSi. In a home where more than one DS is used, then all the DS equipment can either broadcast, or receive music source fro one to another. You can even transmit vinyl at 24 bits around the home! The songcast/DS multi zone system will work in either a CAT5 wired home or wireless.

A sample menu of the Kinsky app, a Linn DS interface for easy access to one's music library. Add the Songcast app for multi room/zone control if one has 2 or more Linn DS based systems.

Big E: Are previous versions of DS products compatible with Songcast?

GT: That's an excellent question! Like our Linn Sondek LP12 manufactured since 1973, and up grade able to current spec should one wish, all our Linn DS products are designed to be upgrade able as well. So the Soncast is certainly compatible with older versions of DS. And should one wish to up grade the sound quality of their DS, our latest Dynamik power supply is highly recommended. The Dynamik is the sixth generation of our in house developed switch mode power supply for high end audio applications, which results in fasting transient response time, and lower noise floor and higher head room for music.

Big E: If you could share, what OS is Songcast based on?

GT: Songcast is based on the latest Open Home standards, which you can read more about in Linn is among the first to use this standard, but we believe in 2 or 3 years time, there will be many other manufacturers adopting it.

Big E: That means in future, one does not need Linn DS to use Songcast, but equipment from other hifi manufacturers too, as long they they use the Open Home standards?

GT: Yes, that's the beautiful part!

Big E: How does this all benefit Linn?

GT: It's an obvious convenience to all our customers using the Linn DS, but more importantly now days, we not only target the traditional audiophiles as our customer, we aim to broaden our appeal to a newer generation of music lovers, who are tech savvy and have high expectations for sound quality. And as the market grows, the pie gets bigger. What's good for the overall industry well being is good for Linn. At Linn we're transforming ourselves from a hifi company to a hi-tech music company.

Big E: That's quite visionary! Tell us about your plans in your other business, like Linn radio on the Internet?

GT: The next step is to transmit our programs loss less naturally. However, to do that, we need to invest in CDN, infrastructure to allow for remote hosting. It will certainly improve transmission speed and stability. We are also working with other music companies to include their repertoire in our programs for better variety of music, which also benefits the Linn Records catalog.

Big E: Ah...! Linn Records, I must say that I truly love the recording quality of downloads on offer. I may or may not like the music, but the sound quality of your hi-rez files are consistently first rate, well done! What's in the pipeline for Linn Records?

GT: I was in New York sometime ago, where I met some of the music execs from Universal, Warner, EMI and Atlantic. Yeah, these are the majors in the music industry with thousands of back catalogs and I wanted to present to them our Linn Studio Masters concept. After a brief demo of an MP3 music file and a Studio Master hi-rez file of the same song, most music execs in the room by then had realised, that they have been comoditizing music for the last 25 years, diminishing the intrinsic value of music and their company's stock value along the way! All the music majors except Sony, at this point in time are committed to be on the hi-rez band wagon, and we shall see them committed to re-issuing all their back catalogs progressively on hi-rez, starting next year, that's 2012! The great news is that the hi-rez re-issues will also be available for downloads on Linn Records.

Big E: Speaking of hi-rez downloads, some of my buddies seemed confused about the sampling rates available, that includes 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176 and 192kHz. They have the impression that 88.2 is up sampled from 44.1 and 96 is up sampled from 48, and only 176 or 192 is true hi-rez? Care to enlighten us here?

GT: I think that's audiophile paranoia at work. Ha! Ha! It basically boils down to 2 sampling systems established over the years, and that's 44.1 and 88.2 is the standard used in European recording studios. The Americans used 48 and 96. You can see that both standards double their sampling rates on the higher end, but that doesn't mean 88.2 is up sampled from 44.1, not if it's recorded as native 88.2. Get it? It's the same for 96kHz. I often get demo files in 96kHz and that's native, not up sampled. Another factor that we should also consider is the original source of the music file. We have been recording in stereo for the last 60 years or so. The first 30 years of it up till the early 1980s is all analog master tapes. By 1985 till 1999, most recordings are done on 16bit PCM consoles, and that means the master it self is 16bits, no more. Most post millennium recordings are done on either DSD or 24/96 digital consoles, which means the master is certainly hi-rez. Here is my take, all the old analog recordings on tape can be digitize to hi-rez files of 24/96 or 24/192(which I think is better) and therefore can still be considered bonafide digital hi-rez. The problem lies with recordings done during the 16bit PCM days, which means the 16bit digital master has to be up sampled to be called hi-rez, and I think that's a shame, because really, you can't get what's not on the master in the first place. You can only do your best to prevent loss of information as much as possible. Anyway, I think the difference in sound quality from 96 to 192kHz is difficult to discern, unless one's audio system is truly revealing enough. However, as I mentioned earlier, most new hi-rez files in the pipeline will be using 192 as the default sampling rate.

Big E: And already some people in the industry are talking about sampling rates of up to 384kHz, do you think that's the next logical step for hi-rez?

GT: I think that's the way some people are, always talking about numbers. I don't think we want our hifi and music to be turned in to a numbers game do we? I mean we have all been there before, with amplifier specs at the time when as if Watt, THD and slew rates were any indications of it's musical performance. In fact, I think more importantly is how a recording was made, it's mastering care and transfer process in detail is more important than just the factor of sampling rate alone.

As we speak, there are already more show visitors waiting for Gilad's attention, so off he went for more Linn Songcast & DS system demos. See, it's exciting times ahead for Linn and all of us music lovers with CAS!

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